Today we look at the last parable in Matthew 13, the parable of the dragnet, verse 47 to 50. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to the shore and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Now the usual interpretation of this parable is to make it a repetition of the parable of the tares.  However, in the previous six parables none is simply a repetition of another.  Each revealed a different aspect. This last parable of the series speaks neither of Israel nor of the Church and it is not related to anything in the other six parables.  The key to understanding it is in the words this is how it will be at the end of the age.  Nothing has yet been caught by the net because it has not yet been let down into the sea. It is only let down at the end of the age.

The age is this present evil age spoken of in Galatians 1:3-5 which tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.  And Satan is called the God of this age who has blinded the minds of unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Because it is now during this present evil age that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. That is 1 John 5:19.

In Matthew 24 verses three to 31 our Lord Jesus described this present evil age.  He did this to answer his disciples’ question.  Tell us. When will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?

Again, I repeat. The key to understanding this parable of the dragnet is in the words this is how it will be at the end of the age.

Here in Matthew 24 Jesus is describing the things that will occur during this age and also the events that lead to the end of this age. He said, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled.  For all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom and there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. Then many will be offended, will betray one another and will hate one another. Then m any false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Verse 14. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come.  Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place, whoever reads, let him understand, for them there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved.  But for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.

Then we skip down to verse 29.  Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory and he will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other.

Now from these words we can see that the end of the age is marked by the great tribulation, because Jesus said that his return would be immediately after the tribulation.  Let me summarize the lessons thus far.

The first six parables describe the things which must take place during this present evil age, which so far has lasted almost 2000 years.  Number one, in the parable of the sower emphasis is on the progress of the gospel in the hearts of men. The seed is the message about the kingdom. It is sown in the heart. The seed is good. But it is the character of the soil upon which the seed falls which determines the result.  The parable also reveals the destructive activity of the evil one.

The second, the parable of the tares, describes the mixture of good and evil in the world and also reveals the destructive activity of the evil one.


The parable of the mustard tree describes not the true Church, but the growth of Christendom, that is, all the various denominations and cults that have developed since Pentecost and what the world calls Christianity.

The parable of the yeast speaks of the false teachings that has crept in over the centuries and have corrupted the pure gospel.

Number five, the parable of the hidden treasure speaks of the temporary hardening of Israel’s heart.

Number six, the parable of the pearl of great value symbolizes the formation of the Church during this present evil age.

And, number seven, the parable of the dragnet is describing what must take place at the end of the age.  I believe that the Lord Jesus will come for his Church before the dragnet is cast into the sea.  The coming of our Lord to take his Church out of this world before the great tribulation is our hope. The Lord Jesus in speaking of the very end time events said in Luke 21:28, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up. Lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

And in Revelation 3:10: Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I also will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. That hour of trial is the great tribulation of Matthew 24:21 which is brought to an end by Christ coming in judgment as described in Jude 14 and 15, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 and Revelation 19:11-21.  In describing the great tribulation, Jesus said it would be worse for mankind and particularly for people of God than anything that had ever happened since the beginning of the world. It would be such a terrible time that if left to its logical conclusion it would have destroyed life on the earth unless God intervenes by the Lord’s coming.

The events that will take place in order to create this great tribulation are described for us in Revelation from chapter six onward. There will be natural and supernatural disasters caused by our creator. And there will be the satanic empowered horrors imposed by the beast, the antichrist of chapter 13.

Let me read just a few of the judgments sent by God. Do not be confused by those who say these are just symbolic of some historical event long past.  While symbolic language is sometimes used, these are real events yet to take place with the actual result specified.

Revelation 6:8 tells us that in a fourth part of the earth people will be killed by sword, famine and plague, by the wild beasts of the earth. Then in chapter 8:7-9 the first angel sounded his trumpet and there came hail and fire mixed with blood and it was hurled down upon the earth.  A third of the earth was burned up.  A third of the trees were burned up.  All the green grass was burned up. The second angel sounded his trumpet and something like a huge mountain all ablaze was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood.  A third of the living creatures in the sea died and the third of the ships were destroyed.

And then in chapter nine verses one through 11 the fifth angel sounded his trumpet and I saw a start hat had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the abyss.  When he opened the abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the abyss and out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of the scorpions in the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. The agony they suffered was like that of a sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it.  They will long to die, but death will elude them.

In chapter nine verse 15 to 16: The four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.

And now let’s look at some of the satanic empowered horrors imposed by the beast, the antichrist of chapter 13. In verses five through eight we read: The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for 42 months.  He opened his mouth to blaspheme God and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast, all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.


Then in verse 16 and 17 he also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.  Do you realize that it is only today in our generation, almost 2000 years after these words were written, it is only now that the technology has come into existence to make this possible? The computer, the microchip and all the amazing marvelous electronic developments that our children take for granted today were completely unknown, not even thought possible in my youth.  Just exactly what shape this mark of the beast will take, I do not know.  But now it is a simple matter for an all encompassing government to force everyone to have a tiny microchip implanted under the skin of his forehead or your hand. By that, your every movement can be traced and in a cashless society every purchase transacted.

After all, it will be for your own good and protection.  No credit card to be lost or stolen and your identity protected. But God declares in Revelation 14:9-12: If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury which has been poured out full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever.  There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandment and remain faithful to Jesus.   What a stark and terrible choice. You, your family to starve to death and enter into eternal life, or receive the mark in order to live, but then be consigned to the lake of fire for eternity.  The words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 16:25-26 take on new meaning. He said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul, or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

In this parable about the dragnet, the letting down of the net has reference to the proclamation of the gospel in the kingdom that is to be made immediately after the removal of the Church from the earth. Here is a new gathering apart from Israel and the Church. It is the result of God’s grace to the Gentiles after the Church has been caught up.

The net is not let down into the sea of nations until the completion of the age. Therefore it does not apply to the present time.  The net would represent the preaching of the gospel during the great tribulation.  As John describes this period of time, he also reveals three major sources for the preaching of the gospel. The first, it will be preached by the 144,000 servants of God out of Israel, Revelation chapter seven, verse three.   In the words of the late Stanford Chambers, all that they serve and allow that their service is not in vain.  They are servants of God. Paul, contemplating Israel’s grafting in again exclaims, “What shall receiving of them be but life from the dead?”

Today two billion souls are without knowledge of the truth. Multiplied millions have heard no kind of gospel making known the name of Jesus. And why? Because the Gentiles supposedly grafted in, have been unfaithful in the execution of the Great Commission. When grafted in again, the converted born again Israel will do the job.  Matthew 24:14 will be fulfilled and the prophecy we note embraces all the nations.  It is worthy of note that immediately after enumerating the 144,000 the next thing John sees is a great multitude that no one could count who have come out of the great tribulation  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Surely these are the fruit of the labors of that 144,000

Number two, there is also the preaching of the two witnesses in Jerusalem in Revelation 11:3-7.  Surely this will result in many turning to Christ.

And then, number three, according to Revelation 14 verses six through seven, during the time of the great tribulation the gospel will be preached by a mighty angel.  And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth and to every nation and kindred and tongue and people saying with a loud voice, “Fear God. Give him glory for the hour of his judgment is come and worship him that made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of waters.”

It is the gospel with an added urgent warning for the hour of his judgment has come. Although we, today, are to warn of the judgment to come, we  today cannot say the hour of his judgment is come.  Now in his prophecy about the end of the age Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.” This final preaching of the gospel is after the Church is taken out. This is the letting down of the net at the end of the age.


Now some of John the Baptist’s words concerning Jesus belong to his second coming, not his first. He said, “His winnowing fork is in his hand and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering wheat into his barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  That is Matthew 3:12.

Our hope is in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for his Church as recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.  It is the blessed hope of Titus 2:13 that we are waiting for, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

We are seeing things take place here in the USA and in the world around us that indicate that the time of the antichrist could be near.  Jesus said, “When you use these things begin to happen, look up. Lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Are you ready for the Lord’s coming?   Jesus warned us. “Watch, therefore, for you know not what hour your Lord doth come. Therefore be you also ready for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh.”

-Robert Garrett lives in Louisville, KY and  spends a  few months each  year as a  Missionary in Zimbabwe where  his  family has  ministered since 1930